The month of January is finally, blissfully gone, although, like an inconsiderate house guest, she has left messy reminders here in middle Tennessee. Snow still covers our yard; a little slush clings here and there on the more shaded roads; we are still not quite in normal routine (with schools finally going back 2 hours late today); and we are dreading the utility bill when it arrives in another week or so.

 “Hate” is a strong word that I rarely use, but I pretty much hate January. (OK, the beautiful images on display above contradict that statement, but we’ll get to that in a bit.) Never mind that I actually like thinking back on the past year and making resolutions for the new one. Never mind that several relatives and friends have January birthdays. Never mind that I love any excuse to stretch out on the sofa with a blanket and a good book. None of that is worth the cold and the mess and the short days and, most of all, the lack of energy and enthusiasm that I always feel during this month.

Colette felt like I do: “January, month of empty pockets! … let us endure this evil month, anxious as a theatrical producer’s forehead.”

I try to make it through the month by focusing on “a time for all seasons,” as modeled in Ecclesiastes. That is, there’s a time to lie on the sofa and read; there’s a time to get up and ride your bike. There’s a time to lie on the sofa and watch old movies; there’s a time to clean the house. There’s a time to lie on the sofa and take a nap; there’s a time to organize fifteen years of photos and start a new scrapbooking project.

You, dear and astute reader, undoubtedly get it: I am sloth in January.

A couple of weeks of being slothful is OK, probably even quite good for the soul. But as the month goes on, I get sick of being slothful – and yet, I can’t seem to do anything about it. I’m stuck – on the sofa, of course – just waiting for the month to pass.

But this January was a tee-niny bit different. I wasn’t particularly excited about the big winter storm as it hit. The snow didn’t seem that pretty as it was falling on Friday; the quite-impressive-for-this-part-of-the-country depths and drifts hardly phased me on Saturday. But on Sunday, the sun came out, and my outlook changed.  (more…)

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Make a resolution to get closer to some art this year. Here, Kelsey Wells shares a bit of time and space with Dirty Dan, a Fairhaven, Washington resident.

Our Lady has recently received a couple of pieces of mail that she wishes everyone would read and think about for the new year, right before they take some time to listen to someone else’s point of view, learn something new from another culture, or make some art themselves.

The first is from Arts Tennessee, a quarterly newsletter of the Tennessee Arts Commission. In his “From the Desk of the Executive Director” article, Rich Boyd shares part of a recent address to the Chattanooga Rotarians on the value of public art. Part of what he says is,

Where there was once a sense of trust in America, we now live in a country that unfortunately asks us to look at our fellow human being with hostility and suspicion, and to be wary and suspicious of people who may not look like us…

And then, there are the arts. What the arts do, what they have always done… is to invite people to come together in a spirit of generosity and curiosity, and to look at ourselves and those around us with interest and explore the things that divide us as we celebrate the things that bring us together…

Public art matters because it questions the way we look at the world; because it offers different explanations of the world we live in. A nation, a state, or a city without art would be an entity that stopped talking to itself, stopped asking questions, and stopped dreaming. It would have lost interest in the past and lacked curiosity about the future.

Read his full article on page 2 of the newsletter at http://www.arts.state.tn.us/artsTN/artstnfallwinter2009.pdf

The second is from a speech to the National Press Club by Jim Leach of the National Endowment for the Humanities. In that speech, Leach says

Far better it would be for all legislators to consider themselves responsible for governing and for both sides to recognize that the other has something to say and contribute. In a society as complicated as ours has become, it is irrational to think that Republicans cannot find some Democratic initiatives helpful to society and that Democrats cannot from time to time vote with Republicans…

How we lead or fail to lead in an interdependent world will be directly related to how we comprehend our own history, values, and diversity of experiences, and how deeply we come to understand and respect other peoples and societies. Citizenship is hard. It takes a willingness to listen, watch, read, and think in ways that allow the imagination to put one person in the shoes of another.

Read the full speech at http://www.neh.gov/whoweare/speeches/11202009.html

Here’s to 2010, and the power of art to build communities!

Great chance lies precisely in the unlikeness of men...and crayons, I would add.

One of my favorite quotes is from Martin Buber in The Way of Man, in which he says, “Mankind’s great chance lies precisely in the unlikeness of men, in the unlikeness of their qualities and inclinations.”

A few weeks ago as I was leading a poetry class, I forgot Buber’s words when I unexpectedly found myself feeling very unlike the small group of students who faced me. I wondered if I was sharing poems – both my own and others’ – that they could connect with at all. Since I was the teacher, I didn’t have any choice but to press on. Read what I learned in my article The Power of Admitting Where You’re From on the Risk A Day blog.

This article is also a tribute to the poem and writing prompt “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon.

Poetry makes a great Christmas gift

Buy Heaven Was the Moon: Poems by Kory Wells instead of a scented candle for Aunt Ruby this year.

Not sure what to get Uncle Ed or Aunt Ruby for Christmas? Trying, as I am, to support the local economy or artists anywhere this year with your holiday purchases? Have you considered a small volume of lovely and highly readable poetry, inscribed to the recipient, as an inexpensive yet meaningful gift? Heaven Was the Moon sure beats another necktie, coffee mug or scented candle. So don’t wait, order now!

Now, after that word from our sponsor, an update on my poetry book:

As many of you know, my first collection of poetry, Heaven Was the Moon, was released by March Street Press in September, just in time for the Southern Festival of Books. It was wonderful to see so many friends in the audience.

Unfortunately, distribution of my book to local and online bookstores has been a bit slow. Although the Murfreesboro Barnes & Noble has been trying valiantly to get the book for weeks and set me up for an event there, it is not going to happen before Christmas. The book is listed on Amazon now, but still shows 0 in stock. I think that is supposed to change soon.

As some of you know, my daughter Kelsey, now a freshman in college, accompanied my reading with fiddle, banjo and mandolin tunes. One good thing about this delay is that it is giving us time to develop more of a show featuring her music and my words. We are very excited about this and hope to entertain at a venue near you in 2010.  (more…)

Since I recently revealed my true dreams over on the Risk a Day blog, I might as well continue my confessional movement: I tweet. Now, I’ve already heard plenty of snide little remarks, so stop your snickering. It’s part of my “real job” – as well as my persona – to stay relatively up to date on all this techy stuff.

I’ve been on Twitter, both with a personal account (@korywells) and a work account (@WorkCompEdge), for several months now. I’ll reserve my full list of pros and cons for another day. I’m still not convinced it’s really for me, but I am convinced that the nature of Twitter enables you to connect with an entirely different set of people than those you will find on Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social media. (To learn more now about why you might want to use Twitter, see Chris Brogan’s article 5 Ways to Use Twitter for Good.)

Although people choose to use Twitter for many different reasons, many utilize it as a marketing tool. If you’re interested in it for those purposes, then the name of the game is to increase your followers, who in turn may become readers of your blog, or your clients, or buyers and fans of your product, like your new poetry book – oh, wait, sorry, that’s me.

One way you can pick up new followers is when others “mention” you on Twitter in their max-140 character messages. For example, let’s imagine I’m following you and am totally impressed with your blog I’ve just visited. I might post

Love the new blog entry by @yourname at http://youraddress.com

My followers would see that message and then click on @yourname to see your Twitter profile, or follow the blog link, then hopefully start following you.

What a gift! You would want to thank me, of course. Wouldn’t you? Well, that’s why I’m writing this article: I’ve been amazed at the number of people – even people I personally know – who don’t thank me (although lots do), and I suspect it’s because they don’t realize I’ve mentioned them. So, with a nod to Miss Manners, who, best I can tell, is not on Twitter, here are two easy ways to check for people mentioning you on Twitter, and recommended methods for responding in kind: (more…)

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This photo of me reading at Southern Festival of Books is a hint about my new dream. Read about it on RiskADay.com (click photo to follow link).

I’ve been doing such a good job of keeping this blog updated that I’m now writing for another one! (Yes, you are supposed to read a little sarcasm into that announcement.)

Somehow, Laura Biering over at Risk a Day talked me into being a contributing writer. I did not have time for it, but I said yes anyway. Thank goodness she didn’t have some ocean front property to sell me, too.

My day is the 4th of each month. This being the 4th, I wanted to make a good impression, so I’ve actually posted my first entry, The Power of Admitting Your Dreams, on time.

All kidding aside, Laura is a certified coach to individuals, couple, groups and more. She’s also writing a book about “women  in the arts and entertainment industry who have found – and are using – their true voices.”  A mutual friend introduced us, and I’m honored to be one of the women interviewed in her forthcoming book.  Laura recently decided that it really does take a village to keep up with a daily blog, so she’s asked women in her book as well as other friends to each contribute just once a month. Now, how hard can that be?

I hope you’ll check it out. In today’s blog, I write about a friend’s risk in admitting her dream (with her permission, of course), and I confess a new dream of my own. If you have your own story to share – through a comment, email or conversation – I’d love to hear it, as I’m sure I’ll be looking for inspiration for the 4th of next month soon!

From The Power of Admitting Your Dreams

Less than six weeks ago, a good friend and I had a conversation about one of her deepest aspirations. She’s been on the staff at her church for many years, but she confessed to me for the first time that she’s listening for a call from God to be an ordained minister.

I understood this was big.  Like me, she’s a daughter of the South and the modern feminist movement, a woman molded as much by the hospitality and charm of Southern Living as the ideals of Ms. magazine.  Continue reading

Southern Festival of Books logoOne of Our Lady’s favorite events of the year is the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, coming up October 9th – 11th. Admittedly, October is a busy month with hayrides, apple festivals, football games and so forth, but Our Lady is always surprised when friends here in middle Tennessee who enjoy reading confess they’ve never attended SFOB.  She wants to ask them, “WHAT are your priorities?” She holds up as an example her friend Peter and his twin Laura, who plan their birthday celebration around the 3-day event each year. Southern Fest is way better than any birthday cake and  ice cream.

For the uninitiated, here’s how the festival works: There’s a schedule online, but you’ll want to check the printed schedule at the festival for any last-minute changes of sessions. Some sessions will feature just one author; others may feature a panel of two to four authors. Sessions last either an hour or an hour and a half. Sessions may include readings and/or Q&As. Immediately after a session, the authors go to the signing colonnade on the Legislative Plaza, where you can get them to sign the book you just purchased from the handy-dandy Southern Fest bookstore also located on the Plaza.

Publishers, booksellers and other writing-related organizations have booths at the festival. There are also food vendors and a few stages for entertainment, including a children’s stage and a cooking stage.

The only problem with Southern Fest is that at any given hour, there are just too many good sessions to attend. Our Lady has poured over the schedule and has these recommendations based on her own biases for poetry, music, faith and religion, many of the  “little names”  at the festival, as Ms. Cheap said in her column yesterday, and all things Southern. You’ll note she sometimes has more than one recommendation for the same time slot, leaving the really hard decisions to you. This is a good time for her to mention that it’s not out of the question for you to quietly enter or leave a session in progress, as long as it is not hers. For her session, you’d better get there on time, sit and smile the whole time, and offer generous, thunderous applause throughout the session.

Attend and enjoy!

OUR LADY’S PICKS follow, complete with links to the authors’ or books’ websites, when available. (The benefits of this blog! Even Southern Fest doesn’t give you that!) If you’re an author and Our Lady didn’t use your preferred link, just post a comment or let herknow. (more…)